Does CBD Oil Really Work?
It's been nearly a decade since pilot programs reintroduced hemp cultivation to American soil. Although numerous skeptics assumed the "CBD craze" would diminish over time, consumer demand continues to rise. But despite the many positive reviews and user testimonials, many people who are curious about CBD still aren't convinced the cannabinoid really works. Sound familiar?
Whether your investigations have you leaning in favor of purchasing CBD oil or you're just beginning your search, it's important to have all the facts. In this CBD guide, you'll have a chance to compare the observations reported by CBD users to the results of clinical studies. But first, we'll explore what CBD is, how it works, and why you may want to consider indulging your curiosity.
CBD and the Human Body: What It Is & How It Works
CBD (cannabidiol) is a plant element, a cannabinoid that functions a lot like two substances produced as needed in your body: anandamide and 2- Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).10 It's the most abundant of the many cannabinoids in hemp flower. Marijuana plants also produce CBD but in smaller amounts. Once the cannabinoid-rich oil is extracted and distilled, it's used as an ingredient in a vast assortment of products, CBD oil tinctures, topicals, softgels, gummies, and more.
Once the CBD from a hemp-derived product is absorbed into your bloodstream, the cannabinoid interacts with more than 65 molecular targets, including the receptors of your serotonin, dopamine, and GABA systems.3 However, researchers tend to credit CBD's most impactful contributions to its influence on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors.7 Based on lab results and a rapidly growing number of clinical trials, cannabis researchers believe CBD's impact on ECS receptors helps support the processes of homeostasis.12
Evaluating the Claims: Comparing Anecdotal Evidence to the Results of Clinical Studies
Despite multiple cautionary reports of product mislabeling, numerous companies caught making unsubstantiated claims, and people initially believing hemp and marijuana were one and the same, our industry thrived. We owe those early successes, at least in part, to consumer interest in the cannabinoid's impact on the body, a steadily increasing number of clinical trials, and the testimony of CBD users claiming considerable benefits for an impressive number of health and wellness concerns.
Take the responses to our 2019 CBDistillery® customer survey, for example. Based on the feedback of 1,900 respondents, most CBD users reported positive results for relaxation, better sleep (89%), and pain, stiffness, and inflammation after physical activity (84%). An impressive 89% claimed CBD helped calm their minds, and 88% reported a positive impact for mild or temporary anxiety. Researchers have documented effects similar to the responses provided by our survey respondents, observations you'll find in the following examples.
Discomfort After Physical Activity
In a review of the available data published in 2021, the author details CBD's influence on several homeostatic regulators. The report included "promising "evidence supporting the cannabinoid's use for "sport-related fatigue," recovery efficiency, and other factors relevant to repetitive motion.11 In a similar report published a year earlier in Sports Medicine – Open, researchers credited CBD for multiple biochemical and physiological effects identified as potentially beneficial for athletic recovery.8
Relaxation & Sleep Support
In laboratory tests and clinical trials investigating CBD's possible contributions for sleep duration and quality, researchers have documented effects quite similar to the responses of our survey participants. At the conclusion of a two-year study, for example, researchers reported "statistically and clinically significant" benefits related to sleep quality using CBD-dominant cannabis.14 In a similar report published several years later, investigators specifically noted CBD's positive impact on sleep duration.9
Mild or Temporary Anxiety
The clinical evidence supporting CBD user claims related to mild or temporary anxiety is also quite compelling, particularly for anyone kept awake by the impact of stress. During a 2019 study involving 103 participants, researchers credited CBD's positive impact on sleep scores to its "calming" effect.13 Study participants given CBD before a simulated public speaking event reported less physical discomfort, less stress-induced cognitive impairment, and lower anxiety levels than those receiving a placebo.1
Further Considerations: Consumer Safety and Product Legality
Despite numerous websites claiming CBD is legal nationwide, our federal government left the determination of legality to the states. Although most allow unrestricted use of hemp-derived products with THC concentrations below 0.3% (by dry weight), some states only allow the consumption (or topical application) of products with non-detectable THC levels. There are several that ban cannabis use entirely. Since state laws vary, we highly recommend reviewing the legislation in your area before committing to a purchase.
As far as safety goes, CBD oil is generally well-tolerated and safe for most people.According to a 2020 report published by the World Health Organization, the agency found "no evidence of public health-related problems"15, and researchers investigating CBD's possible impact on liver function found no evidence of impairment in healthy adults.5 However, that in no way means CBD is right for everyone.
Some CBD users experience dry mouth, fatigue, nausea, or changes in appetite.2 CBD is also known to interact with several prescription and over-the-counter medications, and cannabis products of any kind are not appropriate for people diagnosed with certain medical conditions. We strongly suggest consulting your healthcare provider before adding any hemp-derived products to your daily routine if you have questions or concerns.
Guidelines for Safe CBD Consumption
The FDA has determined their framework is insufficient for regulating CBD products. As it stands, there are multiple loopholes, little manufacturer oversight6, and quality assurance testing is not universally required. The agency is currently working with Congress to develop and implement a better approach. Until that happens, it's up to CBD manufacturers to ensure their products are accurately labeled and safe for consumption. As within every industry, some companies take their responsibilities more seriously than others.
You can protect yourself from purchasing products of questionable quality by sticking with brands backing their claims of purity and potency with a certificate of analysis (COA). That document is the best way to confirm the products you select are as potent as the manufacturer claims and third-party batch tested for heavy metals, pesticides, extraction residue, and microbial contamination. If you don't have access, shop elsewhere. Of the 75% of companies claiming their CBD products are third-party tested, only about 13% submit samples for at least 90% of their products.4
The Final Verdict: You Won't Know If CBD Really Works Until You Try a High-Quality Product
A quick internet search will direct you to a considerable number of user testimonials, lab reports, and clinical studies supporting the health and wellness potential of hemp-derived CBD products. But the research is still ongoing, and no two CBD users are exactly the same. The only way to know how your system will respond is to purchase a quality-assured product and try it.
Before you do, you'll want to keep in mind that the amount of CBD that works for one person can be quite different than the serving size ideal for another. Although using more CBD than you need is not harmful, there's also no additional benefit. Instead of starting with the serving size suggestions printed on package labels, consider starting with a smaller amount. Then, increase your serving sizes gradually (if needed) over time. But you may need to be patient.
Despite numerous reports from CBD users claiming impressive results within hours of their first serving, it could take time for your system to adapt and respond, anywhere from multiple days to several months. While you're waiting, you may find it at least somewhat reassuring to know that most of our survey respondents reported achieving their best results within 7-14 days of consistent use.
Discover Why CBD Users Looking for CBD that Works Choose CBDistillery® Products
CBD is the most abundant of more than 113 potentially beneficial cannabinoids in hemp flower. At CBDistillery®, you'll find an impressive assortment of rigorously tested CBD oil tinctures, topicals, softgels, gummies, and pet products backed by a 60-day satisfaction guarantee.
We selected that time frame to ensure our customers have ample time to determine if our hemp-derived CBD provides the relief they're looking for. The QR code printed on every label and the links on our product pages will direct you to a Certificate of Analysis from an independent lab.
If you're intrigued with what you've learned so far but not sure which products would be the best fit for your needs, preferences, or lifestyle, visit CBDistillery® to take our 3-minute CBD Product Quiz or schedule a personal consultation. You'll also find industry studies, answers to frequently asked questions, and more information about our production processes.
Bergamaschi M, Queiroz R, et al. (2011) Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. 36(6) Neuropsychopharmacology 1219-26. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2011.6
Bergamaschi M, Queiroz R, et al. (2011) Safety and Side Effect of Cannabidiol, a Cannabis Sativa Constituent. 6(4) Curr Drug Saf 237-49. https://doi.org/10.2174/157488611798280924
Elsaid S, Foll B. (2020) The Complexity of Pharmacology of Cannabidiol (CBD) and Its Implications in the Treatment of Brain Disorders. 45 Neuropsychopharmacol 229-30 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-019-0518-1
Harrington A. (2021) 25% of CBD Products Are Not Tested for Purity. Forbes.
Kaufmann R, Aqua K, et al. (2021) Observed Impact of Long-Term Consumption of Oral Cannabidiol on Liver Function in Healthy Adults. 8(1) Cannabis Cannabinoid Res 148-54. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2021.0114
Laurence E. (2023) Your Guide to CBD Vaping: Safety, Side Effects, and More. Forbes Health.
Marzo, V, Piscetelli F. (2015) The Endocannabinoid System and Its Modulation by Phytocannabinoids. 12, Neurotherapeutics 692-98.
McCartney D, Benson M, et al. Cannabidiol and Sports Performance: A Narrative Review of Relevant Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research. 6(1) Sports Med Open 27. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-020-00251-0
Moltke J, Hindocha C. (2021) Reasons for Cannabidiol Use: A Cross Section of CBD Users, Focusing on Self-Perceived Stress, Anxiety, and Sleep Problems. 3(1) 5. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-021-00061-5
Riquelme-Sandoval A, Sa-Ferreira C, et al. (2020) 11 New Insights Into Peptide Cannabinoids: Structure, Biosynthesis, and Signaling. Front Phamacol 596572. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2020.596572
Rojas-Valverde. (2021) Potential Role of Cannabidiol on Sports Recovery. 12 Front Physio 722550. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.722550
Sallaberry C, Astern L. (2018) The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator. 34(6) JYI 48-55. https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator
Shannon S, Lewis N, et al. (2019) Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Study. 23 Perm J 18-41. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041
Vigil J, Stith S, et al. (2018) Effectiveness of Raw, Natural Medicinal Cannabis Flower for Treating Insomnia Under Naturalistic Conditions. 5(3) Medicines 75. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicines5030075
World Health Organization. (2020) Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report. PDF https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/controlled-substances/whocbdreportmay2018-2.pdf?sfvrsn=f78db177_2